February 27, 2014

Not a First Time Parent

As I've gotten into a somewhat comfortable groove having two children at home, I've reflected back on how parenting this time is so much different than it was last time.

The main difference has been a comfort and a confidence I have in tending to an infant that I didn't have initially with Finn. When Finn was born we were second time parents, but not really. I felt like a mother for the second time, but really I felt like a parent for the first. And that was hard. I was much more emotionally fragile after Finn was born than I was after Mary was born. While still in the hospital with him, realizing that breastfeeding wasn't coming naturally and that he was struggling to latch, I was struggling not to feel like a failure for it. The  nurses and lactation consultants were all up in my business, but not in a tender and supportive way. In a - let me grab your boob, constantly weigh your baby, freak you out about weight loss, etc - sort of a way.  The on call pediatrician once said, "since he's your first baby" and through my tears I snapped back, "he's not my first baby, he's just the first I've breastfed." And while it wasn't malicious and she probably didn't know our history, her comment stung and made me feel like a first time mom when I wanted desperately not to feel that way. I had already felt like I failed to bring Cale safely into the world and now I wasn't doing a good job providing for the child I was lucky enough to bring home.

It took a couple weeks and many tears shed, but we eventually got the hang of breastfeeding. I remember Miles rubbing my back as I pleaded with Finn to latch on and then winced in pain when he did, both of us crying and frazzled. This time, Mary took to nursing well right away. I think in part because she was better at latching, but largely because I knew what I was doing this time around and wasn't stressed. That comfort with nursing was a huge confidence booster. There were still a lot of painful winces, but, physical discomforts aside, our experience with nursing was much more pleasant from the get go.

Our hospital experience was better with her as well. We only had to stay the night she was born and were released the next evening. Mary met all the criteria the pediatrician had for discharge at 24 hours - she was nursing well, she was a girl, and we were not first time parents. Being validated as someone who had done this all before felt so good. Even though we hadn't done it before with Finn, it was just hard to be reminded of that fact. This time, there was no need for such reminders because we definitely were not first time parents.

Just as nursing was easier, the same went for our initial care for Mary. Sure, we were gentle with our little newborn babe, but diaper changes went quicker, giving a bath was no biggie, long sleeved onesies were easier to put on (I remember with Finn I worried I was going to hurt him if I pulled too hard to get his little arms through his shirt). It was as if we quickly fell back into the groove of things because we had done it all once before. And that helped put me at ease - something that just took longer with Finley.

Having two kids definitely has its own challenges. Tending to them when they both need something, ensuring that Finn gets enough attention and it's not all directed at the baby, ensuring that Mary gets the snuggles and cuddles that Finn got as a newborn, and the biggest challenge - getting out the door! Loading kids in a car, with all necessary gear, should be an Olympic sport!

The questions and the assumptions about our family dynamic still remain difficult. The few times I've gone out with just Mary I've been asked if she's my first. Sometimes I've said, "no, my third." and sometimes I just say, "her two and a half year old brother is at home," but of course that response always has a tinge of guilt associated with it. While still tender, those questions were almost easier to answer when I was pregnant. Because Cale absolutely can and should be included when I talk about my pregnancies. And while he should be included when I talk about my kids, it's also harder because pregnancy was all I got with him. So when asked how many kids I have, I still struggle to find the right thing to say. I suspect I always will.

But ten weeks in to having two kids at home and I'm still so grateful to not be a first time parent. I'll forever miss the experiences I never got to have with Cale, but am so grateful that I had them with Finn that he taught me how to be a parent to a living baby. I'm so grateful that this time I can not only feel like a mother for the third time, but a parent as well.


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9 comments:

  1. I could have said most of this! From the stress in the hospital with Finn to things being so laid back with Mary, that's so much like it was with Addalee and then Abigail.

    I'm so so very glad you're getting to experience the whole "not a first time mom" thing!

    Oh and yes, I vote we make leaving the house with kids and all required gear an Olympic sport. You automatically win if you're on time! Ha!

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  2. I have spent a great deal of time being frustrated that I wasn't confident and collected with Lillian even though she is my second child. That confidence that comes with experience. The ability to enjoy and have less anxiety and less worry because you have that confidence. I am so very glad you get to have that. That is such a beautiful thing.

    I can barely leave the house with one kid most days. Olympic sport with two kids indeed!!

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  3. Just like Nicole said, I seriously could've written this post verbatim. Actually, I have in my head... everyday as I'm changing her in a jiffy or managing her in one arm while helping dress Benjamin in another... or letting her cry while I make Benjamin some lunch in the kitchen. She's fine. It's not going to be forever. A few minutes won't hurt anyone.

    Total Olympic sport. I just received a call to pick something up in another town about 15 minutes away and I literally had to think about it with pause on the phone. Just the thought of the two people, the stuff (though I'm totally still a no diaper bag and just grab some wipes and diapers and throw them in my purse kind of girl... totally the Luvs commercial), the winter weather I have to schlep them through... And it's not like you can leave them in the car and run in. I have to get these kids out of the car to go into a building and grab something for one minute. Goodness.

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  4. I love this post. All you said about bringing Finn home hit home with me. I felt so short handed with my abilities...like I should already know how to do all this and not be so frazzled and have things feel effortless. Totally get it all.

    I'm so happy Mary is here, and you are pro status now. The relief sounds exactly what I imagine I would love to feel when the time comes to (maybe)have another munchkin one day.

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  5. I don't think I will ever get used to the question- how many kids do you have? and it's super follow up question- how old are they?
    and the loading and unloading the car? i get exhausted just thinking about it!

    love this picture of you three- you look like a natural! Like you flew right by the first time mom thing!

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  6. I don't know what to say other than I think of you often and love seeing pictures of your family. That Mary and all her hair - I love it! I'm glad you are learning to balance everything, that by far, was the hardest for me! But you just figure it out ;)

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  7. I'm so glad you're rocking all that infant stuff that was so overwhelming the first time around. I knew you would! It's very encouraging for me to hear this...although I know for sure I've forgotten a bunch of things I've been hoping that at least knowing you don't need to panic over every little thing would make it easier.

    I can understand how conflicted you must feel when you face those questions. This is in no way comparable but I feel similar conflicts when people ask me what number pregnancy this is. It makes my heart race just to have to say it's my seventh. I just feel like the world of reproduction and pregnancy is so black and white for some people. You get pregnant, you have a healthy baby. That's how it works. It doesn't even cross their mind that something else might have happened in between. Sometimes I'm in the mood to educate them. Sometimes not. I think this is your story and it's up to you what you want to share, and it doesn't always have to be the same information. I usually think to myself, am I going to feel worse if I share or not share? And then act based on that.

    BTW can you believe those militant lactation consultants?? The first time one of them grabbed my boob while I was in the hospital with H, I almost hit her.

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  8. I'm both appalled and just really saddened by the fact that the doctor could know enough of your history to know you didn't have a child at home but somehow not know that you'd given birth before. If only there were a way to mark the door for parents of rainbow babies like they do for those who have passed. I'm glad that you had a good experience with Mary to confirm what a great parent you really are to all of your children. And even if the approach has to be so drastically and unfortunately different, you are the only one who knows the best way to parent Cale and teach the rest of the world about him. Not one of those doctors or nurses could do that for you.

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  9. I think you're pretty amazing! xoxo

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